Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, world leaders attended a special summit at the United Nations in New York to adopt Agenda 2030, including the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs). The 17 goals succeed the Millennium Development Goals, forged in 2000. They provide a holistic framework, applicable to all countries, aiming to eradicate poverty and deprivation, but also to grow our economies, to protect our environment, and to promote peace and good governance


1. No Poverty - End poverty in all its forms everywhere

About 1 billion people still live in poverty — defined as an income of less than US $1.25 per day. The targets under Goal 1 include aiming for the world where the poor are not vulnerable to climate change and have “equal rights to economic resources.”

2. Zero Hunger - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Ending hunger also includes ending malnutrition, protecting small farmers, and changing farming itself so that agriculture and ecosystems can co-exist. It also means protecting the genetic diversity of the crops we grow, while investing in research to make farming more and more productive, especially in developing countries. By 2030, we need to ensure that no one ever goes hungry.

3. Good Health and Well-being - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

This Goal includes a comprehensive agenda for tackling a wide range of global health challenges, from tuberculosis and AIDS to traffic accidents and alcoholism. Goal 2 also calls for achieving “universal health coverage”; reducing illness and death caused by pollution; and increasing the global health workforce, especially in the world’s poorer countries.

4. Quality Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

The Targets for Goal 4 cover the need for access to university-level education, vocational training, and entrepreneurship skills, and they pay special attention to issues of equity. This Goal also includes the promotion of education for sustainable development.

5. Gender Equality - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Equality and empowerment include freedom from discrimination and violence. It also includes making sure women have their equal share of leadership opportunities and responsibilities, as well as property ownership and other concrete reflections of power in society. Note that the Targets for this Goal make several references to the need to be nationally “appropriate” in interpreting what they mean.

6. Clean Water and Sanitation - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Basic water scarcity affects 40% of the global population, and nearly a billion people do not have access to that most basic of technologies: a toilet or latrine. The targets for this goal provide details for what we must do to rectify this situation, including protecting the ecosystems that provide the water in the first place.

7. Affordable and Clean Energy - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Globally, about 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity. Modern energy is also connected to access to water (Goal 6): you need the energy to get water. In the wealthier countries, who have energy, this Goal pushes for a conversion to renewable sources, and it calls for dramatic improvements in efficiency everywhere

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

At least 75 million young people around the world, aged 15-24, are unemployed, out of school, and looking at a bleak future. This Goal, while calling for economic growth to help close that gap, also calls for innovation and for “decoupling” growth from ecosystem degradation

9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

The world is becoming more industrialized, but often not in ways that are resilient and sustainable. This Goal aims for ensuring that everyone can enjoy the benefits of what humanity can build — and for fostering a much more innovative and environmentally sound approach to industrial development.

10. Reduced Inequalities - Reduce income inequality within and among countries

The world is astonishingly unequal: the richest 80 people have the same wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion. The Goal includes a range of measures, including regulation of the financial markets, to make the playing field more level. Importantly, it also covers the issue of migration, which should be “orderly, safe, regular and responsible

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

More than half the world lives in cities, and by 2050, at least 66% will — and most of the growth in cities is happening in Africa and Asia. If those cities are not sustainable, the world will not be, either. This Goal also covers issues like transportation, disaster preparedness, and even the preservation of “the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

12. Responsible Consumption and Production - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

The world’s nations (through the UN) have already agreed to a “10-year framework” to make the way we produce and consume goods more sustainable. This Goal references that, but also covers topics like reducing food waste, corporate sustainability practice, public procurement, and making people aware of how their lifestyle choices make a difference.

13. Climate Action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy

Goal 13 has an asterisk (*) after it, because in December 2015, another global negotiating process (UNFCCC) determined the details of the global agreement on climate action. That summit produced the “Paris Agreement,” which guides nations on their joint action to limit global warming to not more than 2 degrees C. (and preferably 1.5)

14. Life Below Water - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Global oceans and the life within them are over-fished, under-protected, and stressed from climate change and pollution. This Goal describes what we must do to save them — which includes research and learning because we understand so little about what lies under the water’s surface. The SDGs have given the state of our oceans new visibility.

15. Life on Land - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Life on land, on our beautiful planet Earth, is under terrible stress. This comprehensive Goal covers nearly every aspect of the threat to living ecosystems and biodiversity. We cannot afford to lose any more of nature — hence the repeated use of the word “halt” in the Targets section

16 .Peace, Justice and strong Institutions - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Reduce violence. End torture. Decrease the production and flow of arms. Reduce corruption. Create governments and institutions that work … for everyone. This important Goal also includes a Target that specifically calls for policies to promote sustainable development — which would certainly include the implementation of the SDGs themselves.

17. Partnership for the goals - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Goal 17 is about making sure all countries have what they need — funds, capacities, technologies, etc. — to achieve the rest of the SDGs. The Targets are a comprehensive list of such needs, including the need for partnerships and collaboration. Every country, every sector has a role to play!

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